Friday, April 14, 2017

Flower Blooms

By: MF,

Fleury / MF
As Game One between the Pittsburgh Penguins and Columbus Blue Jackets was drawing near all seemed to be set for the Penguins. That changed quickly and without warning right before puck drop. The news came in that Matt Murray would not be in the lineup and Marc-Andre Fleury would be starting with Tristan Jarry backing him up. Many non-Pittsburghers thought the news was worrisome and wondered how the Penguins would response. However, Pittsburghers knew that Fleury could handle the situation and so did the Penguins. There was no worry or uncertainty coming from the hometown bench. It seemed that people had forgotten that Fleury is a veteran goaltender and has plenty of experience. The crowd immediately showed their support with a ‘Fleury’ chant erupting in PPG Paints Arena. Fleury did not disappoint.  

The first period belonged to the Blue Jackets as they had the 16-3 shot advantage. The Penguins did not have a shot on net for the last 15 minutes of the period. The Blue Jackets dominated the Penguins as the got them off their game. The Penguins didn’t play their speed game and tried to match the Blue Jackets in hits. Fleury shined as he was pressured the entire first period. He didn’t have much rest but looked confident and strong in the net. This would be a critical performance going into the locker room for the Penguins.

Then came the second period and the Penguins came out with a different mindset. I think Head Coach Mike Sullivan (HCMS) gave them quite the pep talk. This period was completely different as the Penguins got to their speed game and put the Blue Jackets on their heels. Evgeni Malkin’s line came up big. Bryan Rust opened the scoring with Malkin and Kessel assisting on the goal. Afterward, Phil Kessel showed watch a natural sniper he was putting the Penguins up 2-0 on the power play. Nick Bonino finished up the period putting the Penguins up 3-0 heading into the locker room. It was just the period the Penguins needed outshooting the Blue Jackets 16-4 and Fleury gave them that opportunity.

Rust and Kessel celebrate a goal / MF
More of the same followed for the Penguins in the third period. Another critical part of the Penguins was not getting involved in after whistle scrums. However, the Blue Jackets started to surge about midway through the third. Matt Calvert opened up the scoring for the Penguins. Then the Penguins were on their heels afterward, which was the first time for them since the first period. Fleury once again stepped up to hold down the fort. The Penguins would end up taking Game One with a 3-1 win. They ended up outshooting the Blue Jackets 32-29 when it was all said and down.

Fleury was the star of the game and it was a feel-good moment for everyone.

Fleury stated after the game, “It was fun…it’s been a while. I was a little nervous in the beginning, maybe for not expecting it…At the end, it was a great feeling, a fun game to win.”

HCMS expressed his feelings saying, “He’s a great competitor. He’s a good pro. And he’s a great teammate. That speaks volumes of his character. It was a difficult year for him, no question, but he’s such a good person and pro, he handled it as well as anyone.”

In addition, Fleury made is 101st postseason appearance with the Penguins and tied him with Tome Barrasso for the most in Penguins’ club history. He also is only two shy of the team record for playoffs wins at 54.

On a side note, Sidney Crosby had a quiet night on the scoreboard but had a great all-around game. Crosby showed that he can still get work down even if he doesn’t get on the scoreboard.

The Penguins have the 1-0 series lead over the Blue Jackets! 

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